How I stopped my cat biting me
This is how I stopped my cat biting me. I was prompted to write the article because I have just read an article by Lena Bay on the Quora.com website which explains how she pretty much stopped her cat biting. She used a similar technique to me so I think it’s worthwhile discussing.
Both my cat and Lena’s cat were street cats. This, I believe, gives them a slightly wild nature which encourages them to bite. It’s a desire to hunt and kill by biting. In my case he used to bite my feet and occasionally my hand. It seems that Lena’s cat bit the same areas which are obvious areas for a cat to bite in any case.
Told him off
The way I fixed it was to basically tell him off as if I was talking to a human. That might sound ridiculous but that’s what I did. I pushed him away when he bit my hand and told him in quite a loud and firm voice that he mustn’t do it. My demeanour changed and I ignored him and I believe he got the message that I was unhappy and fortunately he associated my displeasure with his biting habit.
Association between action and consequence
Once you’ve achieved that association you’re halfway there it seems to me. Punishment is not an option in my opinion and neither is strong negative reinforcement which is the same as punishment. But you have to train the cat to understand that biting is not acceptable and therefore I believe there has to be an association in the cat’s mind between biting and something slightly unpleasant happening which is not harmful to the cat but recognizable as an undesirable situation.
Recognizing when it will happen – preventative action – learned behavior
Having pushed him away and talked to him firmly and also shunned him afterwards for about a day, he did as mentioned understand that I was unhappy when he bit me. The result is that I can now recognise his body language which tells me he might be in the mood to bite. Also he’ll do it in certain places and at certain times. This also mirrors Lena’s experiences with her cat.
You basically learn body language, routines and movements associated with biting which allow you to take preventative action. What I do now is I tell him not to bite me in the same voice and tone that I used to criticise him after he bit me so once again he associates that tone to my happiness at being bitten by him. This stops him following through with his desire to bite my foot or hand. Once again the association between action (bite) and negative consequence (my unhappiness) has to be learned by a biting cat.
I have seen people advocating spraying water and such things but these are too strong and they are punishments. They are liable to hurt the relationship.
Job done, in the words of George W Bush! Well, not quite but almost. Although, I have to remain vigilant. He does still bite occasionally but it is much more gentle and nothing like before in terms of strength and aggressiveness.
Chance to hunt
You can’t blame him because this is a legacy of being a feral cat, I believe. Also it is ultimately about not having the opportunity to hunt for prey. If he did have the chance to hunt I think it would help remove the desire to bite. But my cat is a confined cat in a garden and a home. This a lot of space but it is not total freedom and the opportunities to hunt are restricted.
In substitution I should play with him more often. I do play with him but not enough. Playing with him and allowing him to bite during play would help alleviate his desire to attack my foot. It’s a combination of methods which gradually chip away at this habit.
There’s this really good ethologist, I forget his name, ahem. Ok, you may hate me, I respect you big time…
Qs. Who is 100% responsible for his psychological well being if he is not free roaming?
It is exactly that, he needs to be a cat, he has cat energy level s. What could you change in the environment that gives him purpose as a cat?
What gets him.off your back most and lets you keep this site working productively?
Why is that even a question?
I said you could hate me me, but are you ok?
He isn’t something to be worn away at, he is telling you about his world is all. He may miss catkind as he was feral, sometimes just chilling with him, observe his day, you are after all his captor as well as principle carer, provider, he will show you what he needs. We do this thing, this love for cats, you know it, it is problematic.
You know all this.
PS: Shunning is a majorly hard core punishment, for one whole day? Michael, are you kidding me?
The only thing a ny species learns from any kind of punishment, is fear of more punishment.
Shunning is the immediate threat of abandonment, it promises that the trust between you and a companion mammal will always be on shaky ground, unstable.
Imagine yourself as a child, being told off, shunned by your guardian? How would you feel if treated with periods of shunning. Would you have made the connection between some mistake you made and your world suddenly becoming hostile through isolation? I doubt it, you would likely be frightened, confused and your trust in your guardian would be seriously sullied.
Enrichment, purpose, not just play times are needed mostly, just my experience. Your cat was feral, ergo an adult, now he is your cat, part of his personality is now placed back in dependent kittenhood, you may not have children, but you have the role of humane, kind parent to part of your cat’s psychology.
Similar to what I did to stop the hard bites. (I don’t mind the nibbles.) Whenever my cat bites hard, I say “OUCH!” loudly and then hiss. It only takes a couple of times at most before the cat understands he is hurting me. Then he usually loves on me to let me know he was not trying to hurt me.
Yes, cats do understand when you are unhappy with their biting and get the message. My cat bit me hard to other day. I was disappointed. I am still training it out of him.
How about training him by offering him an environment that compels him to be content with something other than your flesh?
In a lifetime with messed up cats and horses, I have only ever seen wanted behaviours
shine when the animal’s need for frustrated, unwanted behaviours wanes due to the end of physical pain or the introduction of new positive stimuli that interest the animal.
Moving from feral to companion is a massive psychological ordeal for a cat. It is beholden to us to find ways to allow/enable the animal to learn, set them up for success, not failure.
To me, any kind of punishment or threat of it, is an impending failure.
I have watched one of my tigers tell off her sibling when play got too rough. Sounding off really works.
Nice point. I remember F2 and and F1 Savannah kittens playing and of course biting. The F1 bit too hard and the F2 screamed at him. It worked. They understand.
Sounding off once, just physically, no voice, briefly, never protracted is safer for the sanity of the cat. Even one sharp squeal is better than punitive, confusing isolation.
Be his mentor, be as much of a cat as you can. Spend a day down at his level, smells, vision, the feel of life on 4 paws, can really help to get a feel of what he feels. Try to spend one day working at his levels of activity and try to feel time passing as he does.
I’ll shut up now.